El Ultimo de Gibraltar (The Last of Gibraltar) by Spanish painter Augusto Ferrer Dalmau
By Stephanie Riley
Tomas Gomez was ousted by leaders of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) from his post as Secretary General of the Madrid branch of PSOE (PSM-PSOE) on February 10 due to probes into the construction of the tramway in Parla when he was mayor of that satellite town of Madrid (1999 – 2008). The project overshot the budget by 41 million euros, and investigators are looking into possible ties between local politicians, technicians, and the companies that operate the public transport. The decision to expel Gómez came as a direct result of the National Police’s Economic Crimes Unit (UDEF) and the state attorney’s office investigating the expenses associated with the building.
A PSOE interim committee was appointed to run PSM and to look for someone to replace Gómez who before the expulsion headed the list of Socialist candidates of the Madrid regional election in May of this year. Sources from PSOE maintain that the decision to expel Gomez was made “to avoid hurting the party’s image” in the face of the upcoming elections.
With such big moments for Spanish regional and national politics fast approaching, PSOE is making great efforts to show voters that it will not tolerate corruption within its ranks. Both PSOE and the Popular Party (PP), the party of the incumbent prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, are struggling against the quickly rising support of the anti-austerity party, Podemos, which portrays both PSOE and PP as corrupt and self-serving.
In a fast and decisive move, PSOE elected former Education Minister, Angel Gabilondo, as the new candidate. Untarnished by a whiff of any scanda,l Gabilondo was twice Rector of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (maximum term) before his appointment as Minister of Education. He is currently a professor of same university.
Member of the European Parliament and Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias, arrived in New York last Monday, February 16, for a three-day visit in search of anti-austerity ideas for his party’s platform that will be presented in the coming months to the Spanish electorate. Podemos is Spain’s overnight political sensation founded just a year ago.
Speaking before a large group at the centenary Spanish Benevolent Society, housed in a graceful brownstone on 14th Street in Manhattan where giants of Spanish culture the likes of Picasso, revolutionary film maker Luis Buñuel, and poet-playwright Federico Garcia-Lorca had lived, the 36-year old politician said: “Our adversaries find it difficult to see hope as a motor of political change. Now they use the state institutions, such as the Finance Ministry, to go after Podemos. But those institutions do not belong to them; they belong to the citizens. These traitors said they were going to solve the crisis. But have these austerity policies served us well in the past seven (sic) years?”
Iglesias’ words were greeted with applause from the approximately 500 attendees, many of them Spaniards who now live in the United States, from a wide range of professions, among them Spanish diplomats at the United Nations, artists, doctors and professors.
With a Democratic White House whose expansive economic policy has been creating jobs, Iglesias took to America like a duck to water. (Podemos is the Spanish for We Can which sounds much too much like President Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign slogan.) In a surprisingly fluid English he told the crowd that “Southern Europe cannot continue as a condemned colony whose only outlet is a reduction in salaries. Europe is under question over the austerity policies it has applied. We need expansive policies like those introduced and that work in the United States.”
Before this speaking engagement he had met up with Nobel laureate Joseph Stieglitz, economics professor at Columbia University. Later he would be talking with Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who is vehemently against IMF policies, some UN officials, and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.
Several opinion polls show that Podemos may have supplanted PSOE in the number 2 position vis-à-vis the municipal-regional and general elections in Spain in May and November 2015 respectively, the number one being PP, the ruling party. Some of the latest polls even show Podemos ahead of the PopularParty! A Syriza kind of omen?
At the televised interview with CNBC, cable and satellite business news television channel, he was asked if he was ready to lead a major country like Spain, being so young. He answered: “I think that we need young people doing things. I think we have [many] old people with very old ideas. I think we need new ideas and new people ruling the [Spanish] government.”
Experts say the startling poll results show Podemos’ anti-austerity policy is resonating with Spanish voters. And of course there is also the profound disenchantment of the people with a system that has allowed corruption to infest the major political parties.
The education committee in the Spanish parliament has announced that they had unanimously agreed to “urge the government to introduce chess into the schools program of the Spanish education system, in accordance with the European Parliament’s recommendations.” Popular Party spokesman, Francisco Cabrera, enjoined politicians to “remember the great importance of Spain in the history and evolution of chess and that modern chess, with its current rules, was invented in Spain around 500 years ago.”
The most important reason for the program, called Ajedrez en la escuela (Chess in School), is of course to enhance the learning capacity of the students. A study carried out by the Universities of Girona and Lleida showed that students who study chess as a school subject have a higher level of intellectual development within various parameters, and enjoy better math and reading aptitudes. Pablo Martín from PSOE supports the program and said that playing chess in school “improves memory and strategic capacity, teaches students to make decisions under enormous pressure and develops concentration, all at a very low economic cost.”
The next step will be for the Ajedrez en la escuela to be debated by the Sectorial Commission of the Ministry of Education. The decision reached by that commission will be binding since official representatives of all the autonomous regions of Spain are represented in the said commission.
Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo announced that the Cervantes Institute (Instituto Cervantes) in Gibraltar, on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, will be closing, saying that it did not make sense to have a center promoting Spanish language and culture on home ground. The Spanish government opened the Gibraltar branch of the Cervantes Institute in 2006 as part of an agreement by the Tripartite Forum that brought representatives from Spain, Britain, and Gibraltar together for the first time at a meeting in the Andalusian city of Córdoba.
García-Margallo spoke to the foreign relations committee in Congress and stated that he had decided to close the branch because he considered the Tripartite Forum to have ended. According to the Spanish foreign minister that forum is unacceptable, treating Britain as an equal of Spain in the contention over the Rock. While Spain considers Gibraltar an integral part of its territory from the time it was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs in the 15th century, Britain asserts that it is a British Overseas Territory. In 1704, in the course of the protracted War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), with European powers jumping into the fray and involving North and South America in the process, an Anglo-Dutch force captured the Rock on behalf of the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne which was left vacant because the last Spanish king, Charles II, left no issue. And although in the end the French (Bourbon) pretender, Spain’s favored candidate, got to keep the throne, the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 ceded to Britain “the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever,” as peace settlement.
But even before the year was out Spain laid siege to Gibraltar in an effort to regain it. More attempts were made over the centuries, militarily and through diplomacy. Today Spain bases its claim on the UN Resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960 which puts a premium on territorial integrity above other considerations: “Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Moreover the UN views Britain as “colonizer” of Gibraltar and “any colonial situation which partially or completely destroys the national unity and territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and especially with paragraph 6 of Resolution 1514 (XV) of the General Assembly. ·
The Gibraltarians are self-governing but their defense and foreign relations are in the hands of the British government and their national anthem is “God Save the Queen.” Spain refers to the Rock as British colony.
To compensate for the closing of the Cervantes Institute in Gibraltar, Spain will soon open a branch in Singapore. The Cervantes Institute, a Spanish government agency, is the world’s largest organization promoting the study and the teaching of Spanish language and culture with over 50 branches in more than 20 countries.
Tomas Gomez, original by Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba (https://www.flickr.com/people/73148167@N03). Derivative work uploaded by Cortexiphan: http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Cortexiphan&action=edit&redlink=1 . CC BY 2.0
>Pablo Iglesias at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, with Amy Goodman: www.presenza.com . CC Attribution 4.0
>Gibraltar airport by Andrew Griffith – originally posted to Flickr as Gibraltar Airport – Main Highway, CC BY 2.0
>Charles II painting. Anonymous. Uploaded by Andreas Praefcke via Wikimedia Commons, PD
>Instituto Cervantes/Fred Romero, CC BY2.0
>FEATURED IMAGE: El ultimo de Gibraltar by Augusto Ferrer Dalmau: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Ferrer-Dalmau . CC BY-SA3.0 Cropped
Guidepost staff writer Stephanie Riley grew up in Texas but attended the University of Arkansas where, as a perennial of the dean’s list, she earned her Bachelor’s degree ahead of time. She currently lives in Madrid and enjoys living in the city and learning about its rich culture and history. In her free time, she loves to read as well as travel and learn new languages. She speaks Spanish fluently (apart from her native English, of course) and is currently learning French. Moreover, she plans to continue learning from others and experiencing all that life has to offer through different cultures and people.
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